Budget +71: Enough Cash... For Now

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And now, the rare good news as the 2010 budget impasses continues to slouch toward the top (bottom?) of the record books: the state appears to have enough cash in the bank to avoid sending out IOUs anytime soon.

That's the assessment of Controller John Chiang in today's monthly cash report from his office.

Three weeks ago, Chiang said that the IOU threat was looming... but also said that he was keeping a daily check on cash projections, thus sidestepping any ultimatum to either Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or the Legislature's leadership.

Today, the controller reported that not only are revenues 3.9% ahead of projections, but expenses are $1.2 billion below what was expected.

"For the time being, Californians will be spared the pain and expense of a second round of IOUs," Chiang said in a written statement.

The brightest spots on the revenue side of the August ledger were personal income taxes (beating estimates by 4.1%) and sales taxes (ahead of projections by 3.8%). Corporate tax revenues were the one sour note in the month's revenue tally... and a very sour note, indeed: below projections by a whopping 117%, according to the controller's report.

The 2010 IOU watch actually began several months ago, when number crunchers predicted the state would come up short on cash in late October. But Chiang's new analysis indicates that threat has passed. Still, though, his announcement says IOUs could become reality in late October -- a reflection of his intent to pull the trigger well in advance of any actual emptying of the coffers.

For now, the state avoids a repeat of July 2009, when the state sent $2.6 billion of promises to pay.

It would seem almost impossible for budget negotiators under the Capitol dome not to take notice of the good cash news and not breathe a sigh of relief. But Chiang seems intent on making sure it's only that one breath.

"The governor and Legislature should not view this short reprieve as an invitation to break the budget deadlock record," his statement says.

And yes, we're now exactly two weeks away from that dubious record.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • Dante Jumanan

    The State is my tenant and has not paid it’s rent for 2 months. I don’t understand that the controller claims the State got money, but not paying it’s bills. By issuing IOU’s that we can cash to the bank is much better than not getting a check. The State can not expect it’s vendors/land lords to keep paying it’s mortgage, utilities and other cost and hold thier payments, we will go bankrupt.

  • http://www.kqed.org/weblog/capitalnotes/blog.jsp John Myers

    It’s a good point, but here’s the problem: the controller CAN’T pay you, and many other vendors, until there’s a budget in place. State law bars certain payments to be made in the absence of an enacted budget. So the problem here, as it often is, is with Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature. Here’s hoping they strike a deal soon… and pay you what they owe!

  • http://jfmjourney.com John Miller

    Mr. Jumannan,

    I understand that it is most likely not legally or financially feasible, but I would really like to see a wave of vendors/ landlords cease doing business with the State Government. If anyone else didn’t pay rent for two months they would be evicted. I’m so tired of the legislature pretending that these budget deadlocks have no lasting consequences for the state.